Fifty Years Ago Today: Robert F. Kennedy

I originally ran this post back in 2013, but it seemed appropriate to rerun it today. I hope you’ll indulge me . . .


If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you probably know there are a few things I’m passionate about:

  1. Writing
  2. Reading
  3. Myth and urban legends
  4. The fictional characters of Aloyisius Pendergast and Gerald Tarrant
  5. Robert F. Kennedy

It’s the last of these I want to reference today.

There is some small part of me that remembers seeing a newsreel of Sirhan Sirhan shoot Bobby Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968. Has it really been fifty years since that fateful day?

I was much too young to understand what had taken place, but there is a strange clip of the event in my head, as if captured on an old grainy black and white TV.

I wasn’t a child of the 60s. I didn’t understand the upheaval taking place in the nation at the time, or even the enormity of the tragedy coming only two months after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and almost five years after the murder of JFK. I can’t imagine the sadness, the depth of senseless loss our nation must have felt.

Robert Kennedy with megaphone, addressing a crowd of supporters

Photo By Leffler, Warren K. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are those who say Bobby Kennedy would have taken the White House had he lived. Certainly, he had the momentum to carry him after winning the California primary. It was after giving his victory speech following the primary that his life came to a tragic end. Fifty years ago today he made the fatal mistake of detouring through the hotel kitchen when leaving the ballroom. Sirhan Sirhan stepped into the crowd of bodyguards, FBI, well-wishers and campaign aides and opened fire with a 22-caliber revolver, hitting the Senator three times. He was forty-two years old.

I never gave Robert Kennedy much thought until after seeing a movie about him in 2002 called RFK. I’m not even sure what made me watch it as I normally don’t care for biographies or movies with a political slant. The moment I saw it, I knew I had to learn more about the man. Maybe it was the performance of the actor – certainly that played a part – but I found my heart engaged by the conflict and crushing weight RFK carried, especially after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. This wasn’t just a president who’d been assassinated, but his brother, his closest family member, staunchest ally and loyal friend.

Robert Kennedy at desk in thoughtful pose

By LBJ Library photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve since watched multiple biographies, movies, and even a miniseries or two on RFK.  I’ve lost track of the number of books I’ve read from full-blown biographies, to conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassinations to RFK’s campaign trail in 1968.

Why the interest? I know the Kennedys were hardly saints, but I admire Bobby Kennedy’s loyalty (especially to his brother, Jack), his heartfelt desire to bring the nation together during a time when it was torn apart, and his staunch devotion to the underprivileged. Even his ruthlessness in going after organized crime figures of the day (during his tenure as Attorney General of the U.S.). He was passionate in his beliefs and relentless in pursuing them.

Which is why he made enemies. Many enemies. Including Fidel Castro, J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa and, if stories are true, then president Lyndon B. Johnson.

This from the man who was once viewed as a timid child by his father.

It’s with sadness and admiration that I remember Robert F. Kennedy today. I can’t help wondering what direction our country might have taken had Bobby Kennedy won the presidency in 1968. Clearly, that achievement was not meant to be. He will be forever remembered as a passionate man who died much too young and far too soon.

Rest in peace, Bobby.

50 thoughts on “Fifty Years Ago Today: Robert F. Kennedy

  1. Excellent, Mae. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. He was definitely “a passionate man who died much too young and far too soon.” May he rest in peace…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Gwen. There are few historical figures that have caught my attention the way Bobby Kennedy has. The more I’ve read about him the more amazed I’ve become by his accomplishments and principals. He is quoted as having frequently said “There are guns between me and the White House.” How tragic that premonition came true. Many thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts today.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful tribute! I admired Bobby Kennedy, too. Haven’t done all the research and watched all the movies you have, but I remember vividly when he was shot and thought it was a terrible loss for our country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Until 2002 when I watched that movie, all I knew was that he was JFK’s younger brother and–like his brother–he’d been assassinated. It’s amazing what a spark of interest can do. Now I realize what an admirable man he was, and what a tragic loss we suffered as a nation. Thanks for sharing, Judi!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was too young to remember the details only the event on the news. I’ve learned more over the years and often wondered if things would be different now if he hadn’t been killed. Can’t believe its been 50 years. Great piece Mae– the Kennedy family has always held my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was the same way, Denise—to young to understand what had happened. I vaguely remember my parents talking about it. I knew something horrible had happened, but other than that, I didn’t know what had taken place.
      Fifty whole years! When I realized the date, I had to rerun this blog.
      Thanks for visiting to share your thoughts!

      Like

  4. I was still a child at the time and the impact of the assassinations didn’t have the effect on me that it did on older Americans. I often wonder if Jack, Martin, and Robert hadn’t been murdered, what would the country look like today. For all I know, their deaths set the nation’s progress back a hundred years. Thanks for sharing, Mae.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Remember the song Abraham, Martin and John? One of the verses mentions Bobby too. Like you, I often wonder how times would have been different and where we’d be today as a nation. The 60s were such turbulent times, and the men who bravely spoke out about injustices made themselves targets. So, so sad.
      Thanks for sharing, Diana.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very moving; the fact that he cared about the underprivileged and wanted to beat organised crime; it is frightening to think, that some in power are not on the side of good and want to be rid of those that are. If only he and Luther King had survived.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree completely. Just think of what those two men could have accomplished together. It’s so sad that fate played out this way. I imagine JFK was waiting for Bobby 🙂
      Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was an awful tragedy, MC. I trend conservative, but RFK was my candidate. I would have voted for him several times over if I could have. He had the ability to reach people, a fiscal conservative and a hawk. What would the Democratic Party think of him today? A huge what if, if he had run for POTUS and won.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I’d have been of age to vote in ’68, RFK would have been my candidate too. He had such vision and the ability to bring people from all walks of life together in harmony. He left an amazing legacy behind. I don’t know if we’ll ever see anyone else who could touch so many, inspire them, and be moved to change their futures.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts today, Noelle.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A beautiful tribute, Mae. The entire Kennedy story is laden with sadness. I once read a book by Taylor Caldwell called “The Captains and the Kings,” that seemed to chronicle Joseph Kennedy’s life. It gave me such a different view of world government. We are like sheep and mindlessly follow whatever our government decides we need to do. The Kennedys fought back and the result was the entire family almost wiped out. Thank you for remembering! Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had no idea Captains and Kings was connected to Joseph Kennedy’s life. I remember my mom reading that book back in the day. She was always interested in the Kennedy family so it doesn’t surprise me.
      The Kennedys definitely took their own stand, especially with JFK and Bobby united against so many. If they’d both lived the shape of our country and our future, would surely have been much different. Like the mysteries and myths that appeal to me, I guess part of me can’t help wondering “what if.”
      Thanks so much for sharing today, Jan!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I clearly remember overhearing my mother waking my brother up in the middle of the night to say that Bobby had been shot. It was a time of turmoil and I fully believe he would have been president had he lived. We had the opportunity to visit his grave in Arlington a few years ago. He has a simple white headstone that reads “Robert Francis Kennedy, 1925 – 1968.” Behind it is a white cross. It’s on a hill and just a little way from JFK’s burial place.

    Can’t help but think of the song, “Abraham, Martin, and John” by Dion. I get tears in my eyes every time I hear it, especially the last line that talks about Bobby walking on a hill with them. Can’t believe it’s been fifty years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joan, that’s an amazing share. it must have been so dreadful for your mother and brother (and all the others) hearing that dreadful news. Thank you for the information about Bobby’s grave. I’ve never had a chance to visit it, but that simple white cross sounds like him.

      I have the song “Abraham, Martin, and John” on Mp3 and listen to it often. That reference to Bobby on the hill with them always gets to me. Such a sad day in history. Such a sad memory, but it’s so important we never forget. I believe that Bobby’s light still burns brightly today.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Beautiful tribute, Mae. I think people forget about RFK because of the long shadow his brother cast. I also think that only adds to his legacy. To have such powerful convictions when not even receiving notoriety for them shows what strength he really had. And to do all of that while battling formidable enemies and experiencing crushing grief? It’s stunning and inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • His brother did cast an extremely long shadow, but it was one Bobby was willing to walk in. Those two were amazingly close, and John conferred with Bobby on most every decision he made. The grief Bobby went through at the loss of his brother is heart-rending. I think he always knew when he set on a path for the White House, he was not long for this world. As you said—stunning and inspiring!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s both sad and a little strange to recall the impact of the assassinations of both JFK and Bobby Kennedy, given that I’m Australian. Both deaths were mourned here. I was living on the streets when Bobby was murdered. The other street kids and I were drawn to the front of the electrical store, curious to see what everyone was congregating out front for. We were a little stunned to see people crying. That’s not common in the world we lived in. The Vietnam war and headline news from the race riots and marches against discrimination in your country was followed more closely by the street folks than any other thing I can recall. It caused people to rally in ever-increasing numbers against the war and in support of the stance of young and free Americans everywhere.
    Frankly, I knew far more about America than I did of my own country. Our own dark history of discrimination was unknown to me back then.
    Bobby Kennedy was represented here in Australia as the only hope left for America … a nation on the verge of imploding. I believe the course of history would have been far different if he had been permitted to live.
    RIP Bobby. You earned the right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an interesting look back, Soooz. It’s remarkable to think that what was going on here had such a far reach. I was too young to really be impacted by most of what was happening, but I do remember flashes of certain things and news snippet. It was a crazy, dark time for this country, and you are right that we were on the verge of imploding. Bobby was the single candidate who could reach all people in all walks of life. His vision was inspiring. I don’t know how we held together, except that maybe his death brought a different kind of unity, with everyone bound together in grief.
      Thank you for that wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m not one for reading biographies, but I read one on the Kennedy family many years back. As you said, they certainly aren’t saints, but I was stunned by how much heartbreak this family had endured over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They actually call it the “Kennedy curse.” I agree that the hardships they’ve endured are tragic and sad—much like the Camelot, which was a name given to Kennedy’s presidency. So very sad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was a devastating time for America. He was the nation’s great hope for many of us… Do you have any book recommends on RFK? For some reason, I haven’t read any biographies written about him and think this would be a good time to do so.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Bette my absolute favorite is “Sons and Brothers, the Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy” by Richard D. Maohney. It really provides a wonderful look at their relationship against the backdrop of the times.

        “The Last Campaign, Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America” by Thurston Clarke is a great look at Bobby’s run for the White House and his views.

        “Robert Kennedy and His Times” by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. is a mammoth tome and goes into great detail.

        These are just three that came to mine, but the first (Sons & Brothers) is the one I recommend the most.

        Like

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